It is only when we havethat room for the indigenous treatments and understanding of illnesses that it isable to tap the vast untapped traditional and cultural wisdom. This was true forexample for the discovery of artemisinin in the Chinese herbal medicine as an effectivedrug against the deadly malaria. In medical anthropology,you do not discard something because you cannot explain it. You rather try to understandthe why and the how behind a successful ritual or shamanic process in healingsome diseases. The commitment of the field to enable the complementaryexistence of both traditional and modern medicine is something that I always appreciate.
As we have learned from our first day class debate session, it is not uncommonto find people criticize the work of Anthropologists claiming they do nothingexcept description of what happens. But I think the expression of their work as’mere’ description is something that belittles the effort as that meredescription is above all the first step of explaining the why and the how ofanything. After you learn the data is that you can be able to interpret it.
At the heart of medicalanthropology is the assumption that there are different stories in the worldand all of them are right in their own ways and deserve open heart to beunderstood. This always has been something I always think of since I wasintroduced to the principles of mental disorders and their treatments. The areaof psychology and the concept of mental illness in general mainly is Before Ijoined a university to study Psychology, I, like the communities in my littletown, used to consider churches as a very good source of treatment, which Istill do for many reasons. Since the place is a touristic place in northernEthiopia, we have a lot of visitors from the west-Europe and the U.
S.. OneSaturday afternoon, while we were gathered for a regular church healingservice, came foreigners to see what was going on, led by a tour guide. As Iloved to talk with strangers to improve my English and to exchange ideas, Iapproached one of these old white folks and asked if he was a Christian and hereplied he was. And I honestly thought they too have a church service like thatand they use holy water for treatment in the church.
And I didn’t even asked ifthey have, I just jumped to how they do it and if that is similar. However, tomy disappointment, he replied, ‘We don’t use holy water for such treatments, wehave a ‘modern’ treatment for these kinds of problems’. Of all his comments, ‘Moderntreatments’ lingered in my mind to this very day and make me question thedefinition. This even have inspired me enough to write a Master thesis (withall its problems) about the religious treatments we have in Ethiopia. Even forthis Master course, my thesis topic will look into the challenges of therapistswith modern treatment training that work with immigrants with various beliefsystems about the cause of their problems and its healing process.
My previouswork about the religious treatments in Ethiopia calls for a further, betterunderstanding of these religious and other traditional treatments and to beginto look at the positive contribution they can offer to the field of mentalhealth in countries like mine where ‘modern’ treatments and resources are veryscarce and/or hard to access. Though this treatments in